All Blacks have targets on their backs
May 19, 2014
Hansen knows the All Blacks have targets on their backs © Getty Images
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen believes his side have a target on their backs after their unbeaten 2013 season and has emphasised the need for mental strength ahead of their three-Test series against England.
"It's a three-Test series which I'm looking forward to," Hansen told NZ Herald. "I know the biggest challenge of the year for all the teams [we play], and without sounding big headed, it is they want to beat the All Blacks. It's something that's been happening for years.
"When you're the top dog its a lot easier to be caught with your pants down because you might not have got to that place you need to be. We've seen it already a couple of times with the Chiefs. Now everybody wants to beat the Chiefs and the Chiefs now are expecting to win games as you would when you're the No.1 side. If you haven't got the mental side of your game right then other teams are going to smack you."
Hansen said England were one of the few sides able to question the All Blacks at home, and they had to focus on improving on last year's exploits in order to prepare for the Test series.
"The first thing we've got to do is put a full stop in 2013 and say its over," Hansen said. "From an outcome point of view it was a season to remember, but when you look at the reality of the season there were a number of things we could do better and that's exciting.
"It might be just small margins, 1% here and there, but if we can get four or five 1% gains then we've improved by 5% and hopefully that will be good enough to put in a performance that we can all be proud of.
"We've already started that [process] really. We've had two leadership meetings already. We've had numerous management meetings. They're the people who set and control the environment so it's important that they understand it first and foremost."
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